If you have a diverse group of student-athletes, you may be wondering how to best support all of them at the same time in an increasingly complex social environment. These days, coaches are often expected to understand a huge variety of athlete experiences and use those experiences to help their athletes and sport program flourish.
José Miguel Burgos, head coach of the boys and girls soccer program and Spanish teacher at Catalyst Maria High School, runs an incredibly diverse program there. Burgos is also the inaugural winner of TrueSport and SportsEngine’s Champion Coach Recognition Program in 2019. His secret to success? Love. And a few other things. Here are his tips for supporting a diverse program.
If you begin by truly loving the players on your team and the sport itself, your team will flourish. Most importantly, focus on loving the athletes simply because they are human beings. "Many of us work in communities where there's terrible injustice, and the only way that I have been able to combat that is with love, compassion, and kindness," Burgos says. “Your athletes need to know that win or lose, you love them. This generation of humans might be one of the best that we have produced and it's our job to make sure that they realize that."
Artificial efforts to show cultural acceptance, such as blasting loud rap music or adopting trendy lingo, aren’t going to endear you to the athletes on your team. You might think that you're helping create a multi-cultural environment by doing so, but Burgos says that kids are capable of sniffing out insincerity. "Music is a great training tool: If you play the right beat at the right time, athletes are going to fly,” Burgos says. “But it's not as simple as that. Picking great music that the kids respond to, or letting them pick it, is one step, but you cannot fool kids into thinking you care about them if you don't."